Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has dismissed speculations that he was unhappy with the SP embracing gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari's party, saying there is "no displeasure" and it is an internal matter of the Samajwadi Party.
"Merger of Qaumi Ekta Dal (QED) with SP is an internal matter of Samajwadi Party," said Yadav. "There is no displeasure. This is all media creation," he added.
He also evaded questions on sacking cabinet minister Balram Yadav for apparently facilitating the merger. "It's all internal matter of the party," was his refrain.
"The merger has been decided by the party, and what the party will decide will be acceptable to all," he said when quizzed further.
The merger was announced by SP spokesman and senior Cabinet minister Shivpal Yadav, who is the brother of Akhilesh's father and party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Hours later, Akhilesh sacked Balram from the Cabinet. Though no official reason was cited for the removal, SP leaders said the chief minister was "unhappy" with the minister for facilitating the controversial merger.
The Chief Minister's comments came against the backdrop of the opposition training its guns at the ruling party following the merger, especially over law and order issue, ahead of next year's Assembly polls.
QED merged with SP on 21 June. The ruling party is hoping that it will help it tap the Muslim vote bank in eastern Uttar Pradesh, especially in Ghazipur, Mau and Varanasi.
QED was founded in 2010 by Mukhtar, along with his brothers Afzal Ansari and Sigbatullaha Ansari. The mafia don is in jail for his alleged involvement in the murder of former BJP MLA Krishnanand Rai.
The merger of QED with SP has given fresh ammunition to the opposition parties to target Samajwadi Party.
"Samajwadi Party is trying all means to get back to power in the next elections. This shows its sheer desperation," BJP leader Vijay Bahadur Pathak said.
In a similar refrain, Congress spokesman DP Singh said the merger shows "growing frustration" within the ruling party which is trying all "means to retain power by hook or by crook".